Cakewalk reaches back to its MIDI sequencing roots to optimize SONAR’s core MIDI editing for today’s generation of virtual instruments.
Virtual instrument developers have added more controllers than ever to make them more “playable”, to sound more natural and evocative. As a result, one tends to do more MIDI editing and tweaking to take advantage of these emerging sonic capabilities.
When you’re working with as many as 100 MIDI tracks, workflow becomes critical to your creative process – you need to quickly find the tracks you’re looking for, easily bring those tracks in and out of focus for viewing and editing, and effortlessly toggle between a variety of controller data for precision edits.
Cakewalk has addressed these modern MIDI music production needs in the SONAR 2017.03 update through a redesign of the Piano Roll View (PRV) Track Pane and the Controller Pane. From efficient, simple controller editing to clean and focused MIDI track selection, SONAR has transformed MIDI editing from tedious to transparent.
Here at Cakewalk we are fortunate to have an external team of rocket scientists who help test out SONAR beta releases. This team is dedicated, passionate and most of all appreciated by all of us internally here at the Cake shop. Recently I received a general email from one of my esteemed colleagues mentioning that one of our trustworthy beta soldiers was jumping off the beta-battlefield in lieu of another SONAR related activity. Huh? This peaked my curiosity and I felt obliged to dig a bit deeper on the subject. What could “another SONAR related activity” involve? SONAR Olympics? SONAR CPU Racing? SONAR Academy?
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As a fan of our bakers and all the great features coming out of the Rolling Updates, I absolutely love exploring all the new things SONAR brings every month. As a big fan of Lounge Lizard, I was really excited to learn that we would be incorporating the Ultra Analog Session 2 (UAS2) instrument into SONAR this month. So at this year’s Namm convention I made a point of meeting up with my buddy Marc over at Applied Acoustic Systems to learn more about the synth before trying it out.
“A fun synth to play around with,” Marc explained. And once I got my hands on it I understood what he was talking about. Being a bit underwater with time these days, I decided to put an hour (or so) cap on diving into the synth and writing a short piece of “whatever” inspired me while first hearing and manipulating the sounds; and making use of the features. I challenged myself a bit by using ONLY instances of this synth combined with stock SONAR Producer ProChannel modules so I could get a good feel for its capabilities. I also thought it would be a fun test since there are no stock drum or percussion patches in the synth. Here is what I found:
Useful: In my book, you can never have enough options when it comes to sounds. I have synths where I only LOVE a few patches but you know what? – Those patches are worth every penny having the synth in my arsenal. I found the UAS2 to have some really great sounding vintage patches. With 7 banks of sounds there are a lot of tones that would come in handy and will work well in certain styles of music. I found combining these sounds with ProChannel shaping to be a great combination for creating some unique sounds.
Diverse: I like the fact that for a synth with a small footprint, it crosses a through a wide array of tones. The 5 main tonal character traits are Arpeggio, Bass, Lead, Pad, Polysynth, along with a bonus of two banks from Richard and Sean Devine that come in handy for more options. I like the fact that there’s not a ton of overwhelming stuff here—and what’s in the box is all great and diverse for different applications.
Cool features: I personally love using arpeggiation effects. Admittedly, I love them because I am a horrible keyboard player and they make me sound like I know what I am doing… kind of;) I sometimes use arpeggiation in a way that might be different than some users—I follow no rules of arpeggiation (is that even a word?)—I throw on tons of effects… I let my ears rule both my hands and find notes and things that just sound good to me. I often use this effect on choruses while knocking out all low end to give a song an inconspicuous lift. The “Arpeggio” on this keyboard is cool. It’s simple and straight forward and allows the user to combine a bit of old-school arpeggio tactics along with many syncing options.
A Strong Simple Synth Engine: For someone like me who is not a synth expert, this instrument is great. The 3 sound generators (VCO, Filter and Amp) are simple enough to navigate for those who do not fully understand the complexities of creating synth patches. In my opinion, 10 minutes of turning knobs with this instrument is enough time for anyone to come up with some great sounds. For example, after putting a limiter on my master bus I noticed one of my staccato parts was cutting through in a way that sounded too intense compared to the kick. Very easily was I able to identify the “Amp Attack” as the culprit, and by simply dialing that knob back a bit the sound became what it needed to be.
Onboard FX: Similar to Z3TA+, this synth carries its own FX processing right inside the synth. Although multiple FX are not possible in one patch, the good news is that AAS didn’t skimp on the quality of the engine. I tested all FX (Chorus, Delay, Distortion, EQ, Flanger, Phaser, Reverb) with different patches and found the available parameters to be intuitive while rendering high-quality sounds.
Meet the Ghostwriter – a professional songwriting machine working under contract to create music for mainstream acts and artists. He lives to create music in a simple and inspiring environment without any hiccups or interruptions. He needs a mobile setup that comes with him to collaborate with Artists, but powerful enough to craft song ideas into finished demos on tight deadlines. This Ghostwriter has to be able to do it all, and he gets results with SONAR X3 Producer.
The Ghostwriter has delicately carved out his set-up according to his Songwriting process. Everyone’s process is different but over the years he’s learned that songwriting is a skill that needs to be worked over and over again in different ways. He’s picked a powerful Dell M6800 Precision workstation as his main workhorse computer because of the expansive hard drive space, optical drive, large visual workspace, 8GB of memory, and long battery life. With 4 USB 3.0 ports, transferring and backing up his music takes a fraction of the time it does on his MacBook.
Songwriting can sometimes start with an idea that hits faster than he can reach for a recorder. Instead he flips on his Gibson inspiration cable, and works the idea out while his computer is booting up. This clever cable catches the direct signal of his guitar’s pickup and transfers it to an SD card. After that, he just pops out the card and copies it to his SONAR X3 Producer Continue reading Studio Makeover Month: The Ghostwriter Studio Setup
Ask songwriters about writing on a computer, and many of them will tell you it’s a creativity killer—as they reach for an acoustic guitar or piano to get their ideas down. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Although DAWs are thought of traditionally as being all about recording, editing, and mixing, for reasons we’ll cover here I’d rather boot up Sonar for songwriting as well.
Approaches to songwriting vary considerably, from those who strum some chords on a guitar for ideas, to those who start with beats, to those who seem to draw inspiration out of nowhere, and want to record what they hear quickly—before the inspiration fades. As a result, this article isn’t about what you should do to write songs, but rather, describes some particular Sonar tools in depth—some (or all) of which might be very helpful if you’re into songwriting.
Although songwriting styles are very personal, I think we can nonetheless agree on a few general points: While songwriting, you want your tools to stay out of the way and be transparent. You want a smooth-flowing, efficient, simple process; songwriting isn’t about endlessly tweaking a synth bass patch, but about coming up with a great bass part—thanks to the fluid nature of digital recording, just about anything can be replaced or refined at a later date. You want an environment that can simplify turning your abstract ideas into something tangible, while losing as little as possible in the translation. So, let’s look at some Sonar techniques that can help you accomplish that goal.
THE MIDI QUICK START
Normally you need to arm a MIDI track before you can record on it, but it’s possible to defeat this so that recording starts on any selected MIDI track as soon as you click on the transport’s Record button. I realize the default setting is there to prevent accidental overwriting of MIDI tracks, but personally, I find not having to arm a track liberating—it saves time and makes the recording process flow faster. To do this:
Go Edit > Preferences > MIDI > Playback and Recording.
Check the box for “Allow MIDI Recording without an Armed Track” (the 1st box under Record).
Click Apply then OK to close preferences.
It’s possible to record MIDI tracks without having to arm them first, which can be a real time-saver over the course of a song.
MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a language by which computers, virtual instruments, and hardware samplers/synthesizers can communicate. It’s a way to give instructions to music production software like SONAR X3 to play, control, and program your own tunes. Even touchscreen tablets have the ability to generate and accept MIDI information. MIDI is a great way to work with music and has powerful capabilities that appeal to users of all levels. There are a lot of unfamiliar terms and concepts in the MIDI world so let’s take a look at a few questions that I typically hear from first time users.
1. What is MIDI, can I hear it?
MIDI by itself is data and is inconceivable to the human ear. It is a universally accepted standard for communicating information about a musical performance. It encompasses both hardware and software components, and though it could be used for sending information about many other things, such as the control of lighting in a theater, or even to control your coffee maker, Continue reading First Time DAW Users: Frequently Asked Questions about MIDI
SONAR X1′s Active Controller Technology (ACT) allows for full control over your mix and effects via hardware MIDI controller. Not only can you control mix settings like volume and pan on tracks, ACT lets you control parameters on effect and synth plugins in real time!
Coupled with the Roland A-300PRO MIDI Keyboard Controller you can fully immerse yourself in your mixes. No more “mousing around” to draw automation for a filter sweep on a synth, grab a control and get interactive.
ACT has templates for most MIDI controllers so setup is a breeze and hardware controls are already mapped to the most common parameters in all of your plugins. Want to customize the mapping? It’s as simple as pushing one button, clicking the parameters and moving the desired hardware controls. No menus needed!
Modern music production combines many different elements. Loops and samples, sequenced drums and synths, live instruments and more. In this video, you can sit in on a session where all of these elements are used to create a piece of music from start to finish with SONAR X1 Producer.
Pull up a chair, crank up the volume and see just how easy and fun it is to create music when the inspiration strikes using SONAR! After watching the video, download the content pack which includes the Track Templates and presets used in this project.